The Sunday Mail
Prince Mushawevato in KARIBA
THE 58th edition of the Kariba Invitation Tiger Fish Tournament (KITFT) was heavily affected by the drying up of Lake Kariba.
From a distance, reports that water levels in the lake are now extremely low appear like cheap propaganda statements by the national power generating authority.
However, a visit to the lake will not only confirm the low levels. It will leave one in shock, if not in tears.
Houseboats that are usually harboured close to the weighing bay at Charara Campsite, where the tournament is traditionally held, had to shift base. At least three kilometres of the quay site has dried up.
The development also affected anglers as they had to travel a considerable distance to the weigh bay by road after getting off their fishing boats.
The case is even worse as one gets closer to the Kariba Dam wall, where power generation takes place.
As a result, the fish this year did not bite as anticipated.
Also, the quantity, weight and size of the fish significantly dropped this year, thereby breaking the growth trend that had been registered in the past few years.
For instance, only four out of the 251 fish caught on the first day of the tournament weighed more than five kilogrammes. This is a drop from 2018’s average of seven kilogrammes.
On the second day, no single angler managed to catch a fish weighing 10kg or more.
With a day left in the three-day tournament, the biggest catch weighed 6,165kg.
Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) business enterprise manager Mandy Chemhere acknowledged that the drop in water levels adversely affected the tournament.
ZimParks are custodians of the tiger fish.
“We are hoping that these high temperatures will result in heavy rains so that we have a much better tournament next year. Water levels and catches are somehow related. This time around, the anglers are having an average of five-kilogramme catches, a massive drop when compared to last year.
“I’m sure if we get heavy rains, the event will be bigger and better next year. We need KITFT to succeed so that it continues to help boost Kariba tourism,” said Chemhere.
In the last four editions, no angler managed to catch a tiger fish weighing 10kg or more to land the grand prize of a brand new Isuzu KB250 Fleetside truck.
Last year, Andre Barnard of Fisherman’s Friend narrowly missed the grand prize by a mere five grammes. Barnard’s catch, the biggest of the tournament, weighed 9,995kg.
The second closest bite weighed 9,4kg, followed by another one from the Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ) team, weighing 8,4kg.
Pat Driscoll of team Charter Africom was the last to win the grand prize in 2014. He drove away in a Chevrolet Utility after catching a tiger fish weighing 12,035kg.
Prior to this, in 2013, Ian Wheeler had caught a 10,42kg tiger fish, and drove away in the KITFT top prize.
KITFT director Rod Bennett remains optimistic. “The water levels have dropped significantly but it is still more than adequate for a competitive tournament. There are still many deep channels in the lake. However, there is no doubt the competition will improve if we get better rains.”
Sixty-nine teams participated at this year’s edition of the tournament, which was a 10-team drop from the numbers that took part last year.
This year, the teams comprised of participants from Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo. At its peak, KITFT would attract more than 250 participating teams.
KITFT, which is one of Zimbabwe’s largest private sector-driven tourism initiatives, has been instrumental in keeping Kariba in the tourism limelight over the years.